The torture never stops


Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the watchful eyes of Military Police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing to the temporary detention facility on Jan. 11, 2002. DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ten years ago I wrote a newspaper piece condemning extraordinary rendition. It was so graphic that the editors felt it necessary to include a caveat. It was so detailed that the right-wing backlash I expected never materialized. The trolls went strangely silent.

It is pretty disheartening that a decade later we are still dealing with the aftermath of the still-unlitigated U.S. torture regime. “Omar Khadr is believed to be the only child soldier put on trial in modern history,” declares Amnesty International. This week, Guantanamo Bay’s youngest prisoner was finally released in Canada. His father, a Canadian, had taken him to Afghanistan at 15 to fight for al Qaeda:

As the youngest prisoner at the US military base in Cuba, he was seen by rights groups as a juvenile, and entitled to much more lenient treatment than he was receiving.

But neither Canada’s government nor Washington agreed. Omar was subjected to brutal treatment on his way to Guantanamo and at the base detention centre.

Canada not only condoned such treatment, it sent spies and diplomats to take part in his interrogation and obtained information that the Supreme Court of Canada later declared inadmissible because it was obtained under duress, even torture.

In 2010, Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to five so called “war crimes” before a military commission, in exchange for a plea-bargained eight-year sentence.

At Vox, Max Fisher recounts some of Khadr’s treatment:

There is a story you most commonly hear in reference to Omar Khadr’s torture at Guantanamo: the mop incident. Journalist Jeff Tietz, in his harrowing 2006 investigation for Rolling Stone, described it in disturbing detail.

A few months into Khadr’s detention — he was, keep in mind, still only a child — guards chained him to the floor of an interrogation room. They pulled his arms and legs behind in a “bow” position, until his limbs strained painfully at their sockets. This was known in the officially sanctioned American torture guides as a “stress position,” and victims often pass out from the pain. Over several hours, the guards contorted Omar into different stress positions, each time shoving him into a painful position on the ground. Eventually, inevitably, he urinated himself.

The MPs returned, mocked him for a while and then poured pine-oil solvent all over his body. Without altering his chains, they began dragging him by his feet through the mixture of urine and pine oil. Because his body had been so tightened, the new motion racked it. The MPs swung him around and around, the piss and solvent washing up into his face. The idea was to use him as a human mop. When the MPs felt they’d successfully pretended to soak up the liquid with his body, they uncuffed him and carried him back to his cell. He was not allowed a change of clothes for two days.

It is possible, Fisher admits, that a few guards and interrogators might have convinced themselves that what they were doing was somehow justifiable:

But it is mind-boggling to try to understand how an entire system of American jailers, interrogators, and military overseers could believe that repeatedly torturing a child was both acceptable and worthwhile. That they reached this conclusion, and continued to hold it for years, speaks to the horrors of Guantanamo and the moral black hole into which the Bush administration led the United States.

That’s why when I think of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, in my mind’s eye I see the letters UWC before their names. For Unindicted War Criminal.

Except in Malaysia, of course. To drive home the point, I’ll ask again: Have any of these former global players from the Bush administration actually set foot outside U.S. borders since leaving office? Can they?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : National, Torture

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